If you’ve been wondering “how to make a small room look bigger”, you’re definitely not alone. Although small rooms can present many interior design challenges, there are many benefits to compact living: Small rooms are easier to keep neat and tidy; Easier to organize and decorate. A well-designed room can feel just as comfortable as a larger space, with all the comfort and warmth you could want.
Small room ideas may be limited in size but can be big in style. We’ve curated our favorite ways to make a small room appear bigger—with tricks of the trade to help transform that awkwardly small room into something sophisticated and functional, whatever its shape and proportions.
How to make a small room look bigger
In a small space, zoning and colorful decorating choices are key. Make a small room appear larger by planning hard-working design, investing in multi-functional furniture and choosing the right color scheme. So whether you’re working with a small living room, kitchenette, or small bedroom in a family home, you can make the space work best for you.
Luxury comes in all shapes and sizes – here, H&G shows you how to make modest rooms feel elegant and spacious.
1. Work with color in the living room
Consider your color choices carefully when trying to make a small living room appear larger. Often, a simple and cost-effective solution is enough to visually expand your space by using specific colors that make a small room appear larger. This can also help make any small living room look beautiful.
“When you use one color on both the walls and woodwork, the room suddenly feels larger because the lack of contrast means you’re less aware of space limitations,” says Joa Studholme, color coordinator at Farrow & Ball. (Opens in a new tab). “The eye does not stop to register a second color and slides straight out of the window into the view, blending the garden and the room together.”
2. Distract attention from the patterns in the children’s room
“Platforms of similar scale and tone will distract from a seemingly small room, ensuring it feels cozy and inviting,” says Marie Graham and Nicole Salvesen, founders of Salvesen Graham. (Opens in a new tab). “Nothing should scream louder than anything else, so the eye isn’t drawn to a single feature and the space doesn’t feel too busy.”
In the smallest of the bedrooms (above), to make the most of the space, I created a bed nook on the side of the room where the sloping ceiling became too low, says Sarah Bickle, founder and creative director at Studio Peake. (Opens in a new tab). Then she filled it in with a lively pattern to set it apart from the rest of the room, though the colors used in the fabric, pillows, wallpaper, and furniture subtly echo each other to give the space a sense of structure.
3. Get smart with storage in the kitchen
“It may seem counterintuitive if you want to make a small kitchen appear larger, but unless the ceilings are very high, I like to ditch the wall cabinets altogether in favor of shelves,” says Lonika Chande, Founder and Creative Director, Lonika. Chand (Opens in a new tab).
It looks much better and opens up the field. I’m always on the lookout for old store fixtures and distinctive reclaimed boards that can be repurposed as shelves. Then I pour what I can fit into Kilner jars for display, along with heaps of crockery and flax and the odd jug. I’d love nothing more than to be left with her Kilner jars and Dymo labeling machine – incredibly satisfying work that’s also visually pleasing”
4. Introducing good lighting in the bathroom
If you’re looking for impactful ways to make a small bathroom appear larger, consider lighting first. Well-planned small bathroom lighting ideas will make all the difference in a small space, adding to the sense of scale and helping it appear larger.
‘In a small shower room, it’s essential not to underestimate the importance of good lighting,’ says Marie Graham and Nicole Salvesen, co-founders of Salvesen Graham. (Opens in a new tab). This should always include decorative wall lights on either side of the mirror to provide a softer, flattering light to the face as well as a decorative feature.
5. Choose accessories that visually expand the hallway
Hallways are often narrow with little natural light, says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene, so consider using color and pattern to create a design scheme that brings warmth and light into a space. (Opens in a new tab).
It’s also worth choosing your accessories and decorative ideas carefully if you want to make that small room look bigger. “A beautifully detailed wall of antique mirror can be a great way to expand a narrow entryway,” says Claire Sa, Principal of De Rosee Sa. (Opens in a new tab). “Placing a console and lamps in front of a large mirror softens the coolness of the mirror material.”
You can apply the same design techniques from small hallways to make a narrow room appear wider as well.
6. Paint the ceiling the same color as the bedroom walls
“For me, the rule of thumb to make a small bedroom appear larger is to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls,” says Joa Studholme, color coordinator at Farrow & Ball. (Opens in a new tab). Who wants to lie in bed and look at a white ceiling? It is much better to create a space that feels as if it attaches to you, and of course this will make even the smallest space feel larger because you can’t tell where the walls end and the ceiling begins. Cabinets should also be painted the same color as the walls, to avoid them standing out excessively.
Paint is a great tool to use when decorating a small space on a budget; A simple coat of paint can transform a room with color, vibrancy, and personality.
7. Draw the eye up in the dining room
It’s all too easy for small spaces to feel dark and dingy, so if you’re dealing with a small dining room, focus on lighting as your first port of call. When considering ways to light a dining room, consider not only the effect of the lamps and lamps themselves, but how the placement of light fixtures can help change the room’s proportions.
‘A small dining room with high ceilings can be challenging to design,’ says Emma-Sims-Hilditch, Creative Director, Sims Hilditch. (Opens in a new tab). “I often recommend choosing low pendant lighting hung above the dining table to draw the eye and fill the space.”
8. Enhance the sense of space in the family room
Getting family room furniture into a small room is one of the biggest design challenges. This should be a practical space, whether for watching TV or having a good conversation.
“It’s worth noting that two armchairs can often take up more space than a small sofa,” says interior designer Lonika Chande. “Sure, a small sofa without arms, with a small side table to put a drink on, and a floor lamp instead of a table lamp could be a better use of space.”
Be bold with your small space and use large furniture sparingly to give the illusion that the room is bigger than it is.
9. Employ smart design in a small garden
Even the smallest outdoor space can become a beautifully designed garden. The key is to keep things simple and hassle-free if you want to make a small garden appear larger.
“My focus in small gardens is organizing space, using levels, framing views, creating social seating options, and working every single millimeter,” says Mandy Buckland of landscape design firm Greencube. (Opens in a new tab).
Trace the arc of the sun to optimize the best spots, screen for any spoilers for viewing and create eye-catching focal points. I like to play with scale, often placing large pots as focal points and choosing dramatic planting groups in bold spaces to create a serene green oasis.
The different levels can be an asset and make the space appear larger by creating additional areas. “Use large specimens like acers and osmanthus, because large expansion creates drama,” Mandy says. Also try incorporating a mirror to create the illusion of the garden extending beyond its borders.
What colors make a small room look bigger?
Of course, using pale or plain color palettes will make a small room appear larger. However, it is not as simple as painting the walls white.
James Thurstan Waterworth, Founder of Thurstan says: (Opens in a new tab). They create a sense of depth and add a cocoon-like feel – welcome to every little room.
For walls in a small room, we’d suggest a dark navy blue or petrol green, then elevate it by carefully layering a pop of color, perhaps a burnt orange or a color similar to earth-tone—ochre, terracotta or softer peach. ”